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CONTRIBUTION · 24th August 2012
Mike De souza - Postmedia News
Harper government cancels 3,000 environmental reviews on pipelines and other projects

The Harper government’s budget legislation has forced the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency to cancel nearly 3,000 screenings into potential environmental damage caused by proposed development projects across Canada, including hundreds involving a pipeline or fossil fuel energy, according to published records.

Out of 2,970 project reviews that were stopped by the legislation that rewrote Canada’s environmental laws and weakened federal oversight on industrial development, 678 involved fossil fuel energy and 248 involved a pipeline, including proposals from Alberta-based energy companies, Enbridge and TransCanada.

The numbers were calculated using the agency’s new online database that is still undergoing some revisions, additions and corrections.

“Federal environmental assessment is only one among many regulatory instruments aimed at ensuring that projects do not cause significant adverse environmental effects, and it is important to note that these smaller projects will still be subject to relevant federal and provincial laws, regulations and standards,” said Isabelle Perrault, a spokeswoman for the agency.

She explained that Environment Minister Peter Kent has decided to continue a “screening-type assessment” for 18 projects that were already undergoing reviews before Parliament adopted the budget bill, which also offered new tools for the government to authorize water pollution, investigate environmental groups, weaken protection of endangered species, and limit public participation in consultations and reviews of proposed industrial projects.

Perrault was not immediately able to confirm whether all projects on the list would face a mandatory environmental review from another regulatory body.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and members of his cabinet have said their reforms would strengthen environmental protection while removing administrative delays that could harm the economy.

But Gregory Jack, the director of a Natural Resources Canada task force on energy security, said last February that industry stakeholders saw “an opportunity to use (Enbridge’s proposed Northern) Gateway (pipeline) to push for (the) need for regulatory reform.”

Jack’s assessment was delivered in a presentation, released to Climate Action Network Canada through access to information legislation, at a meeting discussing the government’s efforts to deploy diplomats to defend oil and gas companies and fight international efforts to slash the heat-trapping pollution that contributes to global warming.

“Sadly in Canada right now when the oil industry says jump, the government asks how high,” said Hannah McKinnon, campaigns director of the network, a coalition of environmental, labour union and faith-based groups. “The government must be beginning to regret this approach though, as public opinion rails against Northern Gateway and the gutting of environmental regulations.”

Kent did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but Megan Leslie, the NDP’s deputy leader has asked the environment minister to consider public consultations on drafting effective regulations for the new environmental laws.

Some of the cancelled reviews include coastal projects involving seismic testing, considered to be harmful to marine species, as well as a controversial proposal to reverse an Enbridge pipeline, and the construction of a new crude oil terminal and pipeline infrastructure for TransCanada’s Keystone route.

Leslie said she understands the need to improve the evaluation process, but she doesn’t believe such a large number of projects would no longer require a review overnight.

“It’s beyond comprehension,” said Leslie in an interview Thursday. “It makes this assessment process look like a farce.”


Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency reviews cancelled on July 6, 2012. Some projects cross over into more than one province or territory. The agency has said it may revise some numbers on the new database since the totals by province and territory do not appear to match up exactly with the national totals.

Alberta: 348

British Columbia: 492

Manitoba: 87

New Brunswick: 141

Newfoundland and Labrador: 152

Northwest Territories: 6

Nova Scotia: 151

Nunavut: 1

Ontario: 561 EAs

PEI: 24

Quebec: 295

Saskatchewan: 638

Yukon: 1

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